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Displaying Black Metal Variety on Nekrokraft’s “Servants”

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The very first sound heard on Servants, the debut full-length from blackened thrashers Nekrokraft, is a sharp and isolated inhale from vocalist Angst. The purposeful inclusion of this very human element is a split-second warning before Nekrokraft open the album with no holds barred. Angst unleashes his jagged rasp over the unquenchable frenzy of his bandmates, and so commences their ripping hellride that allows for zero breaks until the tolling of its final haunting notes.

Servants is an amalgamation of breakneck black metal, slinky and loping symphonic passages, and straight-up dirty thrash. Drawn from the same wellspring that nourished the distinctly Swedish style of Watain and Tribulation, Nekrokraft season their metal with piles of atmosphere, including orchestral synths and choral backing vocals. With Servants, the quintet expand the gritty vocabulary laid out on their 2016 EP Will o’ Wisp, leveling up their previous effort with a juicy injection of black ‘n’ roll swagger reinforced with meatier production.

Even without the atmospheric elements, Nekrokraft’s songs would still bear fathoms of depth. Guitarists Doc and Iron are loath to chug blithely along, preferring instead to range up and down the neck in search of ever more compelling melodies, leads, and harmonies. Drummer Moloch is an unflagging font of nuanced and varied beats, rarely settling in the same groove for more than a few bars at a time. His cymbal trills and subtle accents provide plenty of flourishes for a careful listener to appreciate.

The ingredients in Nekrokraft’s brew are grown from seeds of anger if considered individually — malevolent riffs, rabid vocals, unrelenting drumming — but the band combine them together into a result that is irresistibly charismatic. One would not often use “fun” as the adjective of choice if describing the experience of listening to a black metal record, but Servants is no slouch when it comes to inducing the grin-plastered headbangs. Just try staying pissy as Angst repeatedly belts “Hail Satan, hail Lucifer” to close out “Brimstone and Flames.”

Nekrokraft shine in their ability to pack an album’s worth of variety into every song they create. Though each of the nine tracks on Servants passes through multiple genres and reference points on its own personal journey, the album is united by the larger atmospheric cohesiveness binding the songs together. Nekrokraft’s palette is vibrant and diverse, but they’ve painted the entire record with the same stylistic brush.

Servants is one of those albums that must be cajoled through multiple sit-downs into revealing the full splendor of its gifts. Nekokraft deliver at long last on the promises made on the Will o’ Wisp EP with a fully realized statement that channels the mysticism of its folkloric inspiration while also serving up heaps of sheer metal revelry.

Nekrokraft will release Servants on May 4th via The Sign Records. Pre-order the album in CD and vinyl formats as well as digitally on Bandcamp.

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